We might never have known that this happened except that some good Samaritan decided to do the right thing. He or she decided to send the medical records they found in the garbage to First Coast News, the NBC/ABC affiliate in Jacksonville.
The station reported that pages upon pages of un-shredded medical documents from pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Angali Pathak’s office were available for the world to see. In all the records of 37 patients ended up in the newsroom along with names, prescription information addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers, and birth dates.
The doctor’s office told First Coast News that sometimes the shredder gets clogged.
Obviously, federal privacy laws have been broken and it represents an abuse of privacy on the part of the doctor and staff members who are supposed to be professionals.
HIPAA which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, requires that documents containing personal information be shredded. The requirements were set up to protect patients against any identity and information theft and their right to privacy.
Enacted in 1996, HIPAA was designed to protect consumers so they do not lose insurance coverage when they change jobs and to reduce health care costs through standardized electronic transmission of transactions.
A HIPAA violation can carry fines of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to 10 years.
It was a good thing that someone opted to embarrass the doctor’s office instead of cash in on some innocent victim’s misfortune. No doubt there was a run on shredders at the office stores across Jacksonville after this news hit the airwaves.